2009-10-15 / This Week's Attitude

This Week's Attitude

Director Must Face Justice For Unforgivable Rape
By Neil S. Friedman

For anyone defending the forcible return of Roman Polanski to the U.S., I’ve got one burning question: Would you feel the same if the victim was your daughter or your sister?

If you answered “yes,” I have another query: Are you out of your freakin’ mind?

When the victim is barely a teenager, it’s statutory rape even if the sexual act is consensual and there’s no assault involved.

So how can anyone stand up for Roman Polanski, who confessed and pled guilty but ran off to Europe just before he was about to be sentenced in 1978 for raping and sodomizing a frightened thirteen year-old girl to whom he plied with drugs and alcohol?

When I learned that “View” co-hostess Whoopi Goldberg defended the acclaimed movie director by saying his act wasn’t a “rape-rape, it was something else,” I was stunned. So stunned I checked several Internet sources until I finally found the video in which she utters her foolish statement, suggesting that there are different levels of forcing someone to have sex without consent.

She may have a point when both parties are of age, as we see every so often with conflicting testimony in rape trials, but NOT when an adult preys on a child! NEVER! NO WAY!

Nevertheless, it seems a few members of the community of artists on both sides of the Atlantic are part of a small group trying to keep Polanski out of a U.S. jail by objecting to his extradition from Switzerland where he was recently arrested while attending a film festival to accept a lifetime achievement award.

A few notable Hollywood filmmakers, including Harvey Weinstein, directors Martin Scorcese, Michael Mann, Jonathan Demme and Woody Allen, joined the rush to defend Polanski. They signed a “Free Polanski” petition calling for his unconditional release from a Swiss jail and concurred that his crime should warrant little concern and should be forgotten since the judge in the case rejected a plea agreement by prosecutors that would have spared Polanski additional jail time other than the 42 days he had already served in a psychiatric facility.

Since the 1977 sexual assault, Polanski may feel he has personally atoned for his reprehensible action, but under the rule of law by which civilized men live, he has yet to answer for his crime. In fact, he decided to flee after he was convicted after his victim told a grand jury he repeatedly forced himself on her and she was afraid more harm would come to her if she resisted.

The woman, now 45, publicly forgave Polanski twelve years after she settled a civil suit with him, and, in fact, does not want her traumatic experience dredged up. However, her opinion is irrelevant because the laws of the state of California still want the lecherous Polanski, now 76, to do time in the pokey for his crime.

Rape, even when a victim is drunk, in a drug stupor or wears suggestive clothing, before being overcome and sexually assaulted in any civilized society is still against the law. Even if a victim lies about her age and she is actually 16 or under, the assault is rape. Statutory rape is the most repulsive, particularly when a girl, barely into puberty, is years from physically being considered a woman and cannot lawfully consent to sexual contact.

Whatever Whoopi Goldberg or anyone else thinks, rape is categorized by degrees not the seriousness of the act. Anyone who is sexually violated has been raped, even if the victim is incapable of shouting “No” or “Stop” at the top of their lungs.

Some of us may have wicked sexual fantasies we’ve never explored or depraved idiosyncrasies we act out in private with a willing adult partner, but I’ve never understood how a basically, normally developed adult can fantasize about a physically gratifying encounter with a minor.

The subject obviously makes for ideal confrontational drama, but is explored to excess in television and theatrical movies and popular crime fiction to the point where it merely exploits a lurid issue.

Despite an Academy Award for “The Pianist” in 1992, his creative genius (he flawlessly directed “Chinatown” and “Rosemary’s Baby”), his artistic accolades and celebrity status, it does not absolve Roman Polanksi or alter right from wrong. Nor does the fact that he was a child of the Holocaust and his pregnant wife was brutally murdered by the disciples of Charles Manson. He is a fugitive and must be returned to these shores to face justice for raping a teenager — which, no matter how you look at it is a despicable and unforgivable offense.

Justice is not blind. Removing her blindfold, with eyes wide open, she perceives that sex with a child was rape then and is equally wrong now. No matter how long it takes, the long arm of the law must bring the bail-jumping exile to justice so he can serve the sentence he escaped 31 years ago.

It’s kind of ironic that Roman Polanski is now fighting extradition to this country to avoid serving a sentence for a skin-crawling assault that is worthy of the title of the chilling, critically-acclaimed tale of terror the newcomer directed in 1965 — “Repulsion.”

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